Monday, January 31, 2011

Pray for us, Don Bosco

Today is the feast of St John Bosco, more often referred to as Don Bosco.  He is a saint who is assuming more and more of a role in the Church, thanks in particular to his visions and dreams.  He really was an interesting man: he was a most practical person, a wise man and a wily operator - he had to be to get his congregations established in a time when secularism posed a real threat to the Church and sought to claim the minds and hearts of the young, and the officials in the Church were afraid of innovation.  Yet he was also a dreamer, literally.  Through his dreams, God spoke to him, making Don Bosco a most remarkable mystic.

His most famous dream-vision is that of the barque of Peter, assaulted on every side, being guided by the Pope into a safe haven between the pillars of the Eucharist and Our Lady, Help of Christians.  A wonderful painting of it adorns the back wall of the Basilica of Mary, Help of Christians in Turin.  In this vision Don Bosco saw the troubles the Church would have to endure, but also the remedy: the Eucharist and Our Lady.  Thankfully this vision is coming to pass - the Church is facing difficult times, but the faithful are finding their refuge and a strengthening in faith through their devotion to the Holy Eucharist and Our Lady.  When in seminary many of my brother seminarians had a deep devotion to both.  This vision should be a great help to us and a signpost to bring us to Christ and Mary.

Don Bosco was a great defender of the faith and a strong advocate for Catholic education to which he devoted his life.  He also came under suspicion and his enemies sought to stop his work with rumours of child abuse - as many have found down the centuries, accuse a priest of child abuse and you destroy him, his work and undermine the mission and teaching of the Church.  Don Bosco understood it was a terrible weapon which the Church's enemies, both within and outside Church are not afraid to use.  He sought what we would call today "best practice", but not an inhuman regime - he did not want the children in his care to think they were dangerous and had to be kept at a distance: he was their father and he loved them, he cared for them, he wanted the best for them for Christ's sake.  And they adored him and respected him.  I think we should Don Bosco's life and example - I think they might offer us some valuable insights as we deal with various issues today.

During our pilgrimage to the Exposition of the Holy Shroud last May we also visited the Basilica of Mary, Help of Christians - it was a wonderful experience.  The Salesians there gave us a warm welcome and were so kind - we all felt that Don Bosco himself was welcoming us to his home.   I came away with wonderful keepsakes: relics of Don Bosco and St Dominic Savio which I cherish - they will make their appearance at Mass today.

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Land Grab

I spotted my first politician on the campaign trail this morning.  It was a Labour councillor standing outside my church pushing his leaflets on my parishioners as they came out from Mass.  Do I sound miffed?  Well I am. 

I do not believe political parties should be cornering people when they come out from Mass and I certainly do not want to see the likes of Labour who despise our Catholic faith and are committed to legalising the murder of innocent Irish children, politicking outside a Catholic church.  "The nerve", I said to myself - they crucify our Church, work against our cherished beliefs and, steeped in the culture of death, proclaim Christian teaching on the sanctity of life to be oppressive, but then descend on our sacred gatherings touting for votes.  They seem not to have the wherewithal to realise how inappropriate and offensive that is.   But then, as history teaches us, socialism and communism never worried about such things.

The outcome?  Mr Labour councillor was gone before I could get out to send him packing - he probably saw the fire in my eyes from the distance.   Good that he was, I was already in a rage - some decent individual cleared out our heating oil over the weekend, so we were all in the cold asking God for the grace to forgive.  There are a lot of robberies around the parish lately.  Anyway, good news: a new statue of Our Lady, gift of an anonymous donor, was enthroned in our Adoration Chapel.  May she watch over us and help us in the important decisions which lie ahead - and may she help us keep abortion out of Ireland.

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Eucharistic Congress 2012: Worrying Developments

Meeting with a priest friend the other day, he let me read some of the documents emerging from the committees organising next year's Eucharistic Congress in Dublin.  One of them which lays down the rules for the journey of a Eucharistic Congress bell through the country (pretty rigid rules) reads more like something out of "Have I Got News For You?" or  the script of a Monty Python sketch.   But then again, the documents online are just as bad. 
Reading through the Pastoral Preparation Programme, available online here, I see a lot of problems, the main one being a disordered emphasis on the individual rather than on the mystery of the Eucharist.  The theme of the congress is The Eucharist, Communion with Christ and One Another, it seems to me most of the emphasis is on the latter end of the theme. 
Have a read of the document and see for yourself, it will remind you of those awful paraliturgies we have had to endure for the last thirty years, where we focus on "our" gathering, "our" story, "our" experience - the sort of stuff that has led a couple of generations of Catholics away from worshipping God to worshipping themselves. In reality this is where the Church is in Ireland at the moment, and has been for some time - certainly my generation got nothing else. The sort of stuff which reduces the mystery of the Eucharist to the subjective celebration of a community turned in on itself, rather than a community turning to God worshiping him and celebrating the Mystery of Salvation.  As a priest trying to prepare his parish for the Congress and foster a genuine Eucharistic faith this stuff is no help at all, more of a hindrance actually.
I know from a number of sources that there is a serious dispute going on behind the scenes.  Orthodox faithful who want to make the Eucharistic Congress a real celebration of the Mystery of the Holy Eucharist against the old guard who seem most uncomfortable with Catholic Eucharistic piety - looking at these documents it seems the old guard won.
The Holy Father has already said that he sees the Congress as part of the Church's renewal in Ireland, I'm afraid if it turns out as the documents here intend, it will do the opposite.  One good thing though, with Eucharistic devotees from around the world in Ireland witnessing this stuff it will become apparent to the powers that be in Rome that serious doctrinal reform is needed in Ireland and that the Visitation must go far beyond the issue of child abuse and seminaries. 
As for the Eucharistic Congress Dublin 2012, another priest said to me last night: "It seems like its going to be another wasted opportunity for Ireland - as were the Years in preparation for the Jubilee 2000, the Jubilee itself, the Year of the Rosary, the Year of the Eucharist, the Pauline Year, the Year of the Priest....all of which were virtually ignored in Ireland."  I hope not, there is still time to turn the thing around.  

Friday, January 28, 2011

Out Today

Colin with fellow Irish actor Ciaran Hinds in The Rite

The Rite opens tonight in the USA.  In Ireland and the UK we have to wait for another month.  So all members of the Fraternity in the US and Canada, if you can, and you are not squeamish, pop along and see it and support our Fraternity brother Colin in his first major Hollywood movie.  

If, after seeing it, you want to let us know what you think post a comment or email us at the Fraternity - in fact, our magazine will be looking for a review of the movie.  So here's an idea, submit a review of about 600 words to and the best review gets printed in Fraternitas and a prize.  Include your name, email and postal address.  We'll say closing day: 11th February.

The premiere took place on Wednesday at the Grauman's Chinese Theatre in LA.   Here's an article, with video clips, including an interview with Colin.

Related: here's a good interview with the priest who inspired the book and the movie: Fr Gary Thomas.

Should Priests Marry?

There is an excellent post by Fr Dwight Longnecker on his blog dealing with the question of married priests in the Catholic Church.   He reminds us that there is a difference between priests marrying and married men being ordained.  As a former Anglican priest who converted, he was ordained a priest for the Church while having a wife and children, so his reflection is very interesting - from the inside you might say.  And he has a few interesting things to say, things which will dispel the rosy view many calling for married priests have. The paragraph on practical problems will make them quite uncomfortable methinks.  

In Ireland today you often hear the call for married priests, and it is seen by many as the solution to many of the Church's problems (they are not following what is going on in the Anglican communion - lots of problems there).   

At the beginning of the Year of the Priest, I decided to dedicate a few homilies throughout the year to the priesthood.  In one of them I touched on the call for priests to be allowed marry.  I briefly explained the theology behind it - I could see a few faces in the congregation tighten up - they were determined not to be convinced. 

Then I got on to a few practical points, same as those Fr Dwight raises.  Well, the reaction was amazing!   When they realised that THEY would have to support the priest and his family, the looks on their faces changed - reality was hitting.  "You would need to give perhaps three or four times more to bring the priest's salary up to a decent rate to support his wife and children" (their mouths opened).  "As we will follow the Church's teachings on all things, there will probably be a lot of children to support" (indignant look - it seems they will want their priest to be contracepting with the rest of them).  "And remember, a priest will have to put his marriage first, so if it comes to a decision between your needs and his family's needs, you'll have to take second place" (ie they'll pay more, less availability). 

To be honest I was smiling inside.  Many who argue for priests to marry, as Fr Dwight alludes to, are not very realistic, even a touch naive - they really do not consider all the issues.  Personally I favour the continuance of the discipline in the Western Church which dates to apostolic times (we need to tackle the false history that claims celibacy only came in around the 12th century).   Celibacy makes a priest available to his flock and symbolises his total dedication to Christ.  As one who lives and acts in persona Christi, when the priest is celibate he is living a life more imitative of Christ who was celibate himself.   That said, I have no problem with the exceptions which are made for those former Anglican clergy who convert - I trust the Church will be careful in its decision and prudent in appointments: the exception does not nullify the rule. 

Thursday, January 27, 2011

A Mighty Woman

File:Joan of arc miniature graded.jpg

The Holy Father dedicated his weekly audience yesterday to St Joan of Arc.  At the moment he is reflecting on the great women saints of the Middle Ages, which is wonderful.  For one thing we will be reminded of the great role women have played in the history of the Church and counterbalance the radical feminist charge that all women were oppressed and enslaved by the Church.

Joan was what we in Ireland would call "a mighty woman".  An Irishman would have deep respect (and Godly fear) of a woman atop a horse brandishing a sword and leading a battle charge (OK, she didn't have a sword, it was a banner with Holy Names of Jesus and Mary, but still, your average Irishman would respect that).  The fact that she was fighting the English would also increase her chances of being voted "County Woman of the Year" (not that I could condone bloodthirsty battles against our brothers and sisters across the water).  I do wonder what the English think of Joan of Arc (any thoughts friends in the UK)?  I know Shakespeare, who, now thanks to a lot of recent persuasive evidence, was most likely a practising Catholic, painted her in very negative terms in his play Henry VI, Part 1, where she is the villain. 

The Holy Father puts it well in describing her as one who sought true peace in justice between two Christian nations - Christian nations should respect each other, each other's borders, their peoples and freedoms.  That she took up arms to enforce would be an interesting topic for reflection on the just war theory.  Her condemnation by polticially motivated Catholic bishops resonates with us in these times as we deal with fallout caused by unfaithful bishops.    Her martyrdom may provide the precedence for the declaration of martyrdom in the case of Savonarola who was executed by the dei Medici in Florence with the cooperation of Pop Alexander VI - Savonarola's Cause has been opened.  I see our St Therese also gets a mention.

On Its Way

The new movie, The Rite, starring our own Colin O'Donoghue, is on its way.  It opens tomorrow in the US and in Ireland and the UK on the 25th February.

The movie is getting good press in the Catholic media, though many are exercising caution - Hollywood tends to do things in a way which can distract from the reality, but as one commentator said, it is still drawing people's attention to the fact that the devil exists and he is working among us - we need to be reminded of that.

Reviews: CNA, NCR, Headline Bistro, Get The Big Picture review, ciNews (we get a mention, though the membership figure is incorrect: now we are almost 1,000 members in 14 countries).

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Back To Basics?

There is an interesting development in the Archdiocese of Liverpool, announced a couple of days ago. The decision has been taken to return to the original order of the Sacraments of Initiation - i.e. Confirmation will now be given before First Holy Communion.   According to the diocesan statement, the sacrament of Confirmation will now be given to candidates who are prepared for it around the age of eight, and then sometime afterwards, they will receive their First Holy Communion, I think with First Confession somewhere in between.

This is something to watch, I think, and see how they get on.  A number of theologians have for some time expressed misgivings over the present system we have in the Church where Holy Communion is given at seven or eight, and Confirmation a number of years later - the process of initiation is out of kilter, and to be honest I do have to agree with them.  In the Orthodox churches the three sacraments are given together - the child is baptised, confirmed and then given a tiny fragment of the Eucharist, and then after a number of years instruction, the child begins to receive Holy Communion on a regular basis.  I know Protestant denominations, Anglicans included, give Confirmation to the candidate when they are in their teens, and then they receive communion for the first time.  It was Pope St Pius X who allowed children receive Holy Communion at an earlier age, partly inspired by a saintly little Irish girl, Nellie Organ who had been given permission to receive it at the age of four, having demonstrated she had reached the age of reason early and had a profound understanding of, and love for, the Eucharist.

Is it time for us in Ireland to follow Liverpool's lead?  I think we should think about it and watch how things go in Liverpool.  Certainly, as I and many others have said on numerous occasions, there is an urgent need for our catechetical programme to be overhauled (in my opinon, programme trashed, new orthodox people put in place to work with the official Catechism of the Church to design, write and implement a new programme, and a strict process put in place to ensure diocesan catechists are following and adhering to the programme).    Seeing as the Church in Ireland is beginning to reform - I hear great things are happening in some areas of the Apostolic Visitation, we might begin a conversation with Rome to see if we should return to the original practice as Liverpool is doing.  I realise there may be some problems, not least among them the age at which Confirmation is to be given.  But, again, we will keep an eye on how Liverpool fares out.

The Young Rally For Life

Each year in Washington DC, USA, one of the world's biggest annual civil rights rallies takes place on the 22nd January and is ignored by most of the media and political figures in the US and beyond.  It is of course the March for Life which takes place on the anniversary of the Roe v Wade judgement which legalised abortion on demand. 

I am edified reading the reports, usually from Catholic and pro-life sources, and I see the numbers are growing, not only in number, but also in age - the protestors are getting younger each year.  As statistics show us, the young are ardently pro-life in the USA, and are prepared to take to the streets in defence of the unborn.  Someone once said that this wonderful development emerges from a realisation on the part of Americans born post Roe v Wade, that they are the survivors of a pro-abortion regime. 

Another wonderful dimension of the March is the role the Catholic Church plays.  In the Basilica of the Immaculate Conception a Mass is offered the evening before the March, the huge basilica is packed to capacity as a large number of bishops and priests offer a Mass for Life.  The basilica is left open all night and those marchers who could not get accommodation for the night sleep in the church - marvellous!  How fitting: the Mother of God provides hospitality for her children who have come to bear witness to the Gospel of Life.  

As we in Ireland totter towards the introduction of abortion, probably on demand practically speaking, we should look Stateside to see how the pro-life movement has managed to win the hearts of the young and may finally see the beginning of the end of the greatest evil known to humanity.   The Church in Ireland should also take note and prepare to take its place on the side of the pro-life movement. 

We may have our own anniversary in a few years time and it should be marked with sorrow, reparation, determination and prayer. 

Tuesday, January 25, 2011


When is art art? When is it propaganda?  When is it criminally offensive?  Questions such as these exercise the minds of critics from time to time, and perhaps not often enough nowadays.   As Christians we ask questions such as these every time an artist produces a work which directly, and usually intentionally, offends our sincerely held beliefs and people we hold dear.   Given the nature of Western society today we tend to find ourselves asking those question more and more often.  And now we have another opportunity to ask them as a Toronto gallery hosts an exhibition of works which include a painting of Pope Benedict which is riddled with bullet holes and is part of a section devoted to "evildoers".  Also included in the exhibition is a work depicting American president Barack Obama as Christ on the cross.  The works are by artist Peter Alexander Por.  I'm not reproducing the images, but if you want to see them go here.

As expected the exhibition has received many complaints and the defenders of the works are giving the usual excuses which tend to be peddled out when an artist attacks Christianity, so no light there: I love art, and in the Fraternity we help artists as much as can afford, but sometimes the "artist-speak" used to defend works like Por's verges on the ridiculous and stupid, so we can safely discard those explanations.

So, the questions, when is art art, etc?  Answering these questions is very difficult today because art has become so relativist in the 20th and 21st centuries.  As the notion of beauty and truth waned as people began to make up truth and beauty for themselves, the standards set by the Classical philosophers and artists are no longer acceptable, but are considered bourgeois by many today (revealing the philosophical bunker they are in), so it is difficult to argue.  Many today are offended by the idea of classical beauty and so cannot really accept that ordinary people who live in the "real world" could be touched by this beauty: it was too "exclusive". So art veered off in a particular direction.  Art must be more democratic, ethnic, real, we are told, and so we celebrate these ideas with paintings like Por's.

As Christians we have a particular approach to art.  We accept the classical ideal, but we also see the possibilities in the ordinary.   As 20th century artists were trying to redefine beauty and truth (usually according to their own desires and agendas rather than looking to universals), another thinker was also looking at the question of art and beauty - theologian Hans Urs von Balthasar.  He situated art in the context of the great drama which exists in God, the Incarnation and redemption, and this I think gives us an new edge on what art is.   Von Balthasar restored the idea of beauty and truth, not as that which can be manipulated according to personal tastes or ideological agenda or philosophy, but as universals centred in Christ himself.   The movement of Christian art should be towards these universals, towards Christ.  The Christian artist, then, can take the ordinary, reflect on it, reveal its significance and beauty, and what it is pointing to.  In this light art can reveal man in all his dignity, and yes, sinfulness, but also as one redeemed.  Creation, expressed through landscapes for example, can be seen in a different way, as a character itself in a great plan which is unfolding. 

Interestingly, Richard Moore, the artist who painted the new image of St Genesius, tends to paint landscapes, and attuned to the natural world around him, when you look at one of his paintings you see that he sees there is a life behind it, a meaning to the world, a beauty which is given.  He is a man of faith, and his faith informs his work.

So now, back to Por's work, and the works of those like him.  If we apply the principles of von Balthasar we see Por's work falls short, as does that of many artists today.  That may or may not be their fault - they have grown up in cultural environment which has rebelled against artistic principles.  Art colleges no longer teach traditional, realist or figurative art - one of the reasons I believe they do not do so is because they do not want to promote real talent, real artistic genius is rare and it rises above the ordinary, so better not allow this talent to be revealed, less talented artists will be hurt, undermined, indeed the hacks will be exposed. 

Knowing some very talented artists who could actually draw and paint,  I saw they had an awful time in art school because they were penalised for revealing their ability in works of beauty and intelligence: they had to produce the mediocre trash like everyone else to get their degrees.   Culture has to be renewed, standards do have to be restored and yes that means that not everyone can be an artist, not everyone has has that genius, only the few and they are the ones who have been chosen by God to work with him in the creative.  We all have abilities and talents, but they are different, so we should not feel left out if we cannot reap the praise a good artist gains through their work.  And that is part of the problem, in the age of equality, everyone must be the same, "all must have prizes" as Melanie Phillips puts us.  And so to implement that equality we dismantle the true and the beautiful and worship the banal because then we are all the same - we are all in the same bunker.  And in that bunker we endure the formless shapes and splattered canvases that we are told are art, or seek depth in a trash can balanced on a tossed bed with the artist slumbering within, or swoon in adoration at the instillation of naked people, slithering in muck and screaming their heads off in a recorded audio-visual experience.  Isn't it all just too much?  All this and heaven too!!  Forgive me if I am laughing my head off!   That too may be art.

As for Por, judge his work by comparison.  Take out the Pope, replace him with a Jewish or Muslim leader, or even with Obama or a feminist icon?   Now, is it art?

Saturday, January 22, 2011

That Letter

Other issues and work have kept me from commenting on "That Letter" which RTE and the media have been trying to use to crucify the Church again.  I did not see the documentary on television, but I have heard all about it and have read alot of the commentary since. 

To an open mind it is obvious that RTE is trying to make hay where there is little grass, and their bias against Christianity is blinkering their objectivity leading them to make claims which do not stand up either logically or in justice, but then what is new?

You have probably read excellent articles on the situation: Jimmy Aiken, as always, hits the nail on the head, and John Allen has a very good, objective piece.   But there is also an excellent blog posting by Fr Gabriel Burke which is well worth reading, particularly for my Irish readers.  Reading his piece it I am reminded that the media's concern for the abuse of children seems to be limited as they appear fairly unconcerned about the deaths of 200 children in state care in the last ten years, and as Fr Burke points out, no resignations, no demonstrations on the streets and no great stunts by victims' groups to highlight it.  Of course as many know the real spectre of abuse in Ireland is hidden beneath a veneer of respectability and ideology and it will be extremely difficult to scratch the surface of the problem - and that problem has nothing to do with the Church.   

The Church is now doing what it can to deal with the problem - in fact we now have the strictest Child Protection policy, and that policy is the number one issue in the Church (sometimes leaving other vital issues of Church life and catechises on the back burner).   However, having listening to alot of commentary on the issue of the Vatican letter, I hope some in the Church in Ireland are not using it to get at the Apostolic Visitation, as a means to undermine it and force it in a particular direction.  There is talk that, like the media, some mischevious persons in the Church are also trying to make hay where there is little grass in order to keep a certain ideological status quo in place.  Tisk, tisk, tisk....

Friday, January 21, 2011

These Look Good

Two good news stories from the showbiz arena.  The first is the highly publicised plans by Eduardo Verastegui to open a pro-life crisis pregnancy centre to support women.  Well done, Eduardo.   He is committed to the pro-life cause as is obvious in his movie Bella which our film club watched just last Tuesday night.  We will keep his efforts in our prayers.

The CNA has a report on the Holy Wood Acting Studio founded to help train actors and help them in the formation of good character and spirituality.  Sounds good.  They are even incorporating Pope John Paul II's theology of the body.  Eduardo Verastegui is involved in this project too.  God bless him.  We must pray for him, if he is doing so much good he bound to be under attack.   (Holy Wood Acting Studio website)

So now, dear readers, those of you who are not members of our Fraternity, would any of you like to join us and offer your prayers for Eduardo and his great work?    Pop over to our website, fill out the form and tell us in the comments box that you will adopt Eduardo and his projects as your prayer intention.

The Charade Begins....Again

While we in the Fraternity have been celebrating our Foundation Day, our country has been falling apart (so I was glad of the distraction to be honest).  Yesterday was probably the most chaotic day in the history of modern Irish politics: six ministers resigned from the cabinet and when our prime minister (Taoiseach) tried to appoint new ministers his coalition partner, head of the Green party, refused to allow him, no doubt threatening to pull the plug on the government which is its dying days anyway.  

I think it was Enoch Powell who said that every political career ends in failure, well looking at yesterday's events he has been proven right.  As an Irishman it was awful to see the just how farcical the whole political process can be and I am not just talking about the state of the government - the opposition parties are just as bad.  Anyway, we have been told there is a General Election on Friday 11th March, so all the posturing begins.  

That should also get us Christians ready to do a little interrogating.  Seeing as our public representatives have shunned the Christian faith and Christian morality for the past few years, now as they get set to make their house to house calls looking for votes it is time for us to make our voices heard and make them squirm (even if only just a little) for their deafness. 

With abortion on the agenda again time for us to sift the real pro-life politicians from the pro-abortion ones and ambiguous ones.  As a Christian, in principle, I cannot vote for a politician who favours the legalisation of abortion or who does not have the courage to oppose his/her party if it favours abortion, so they are out if there is a pro-life alternative.  Now I know what politicians will say: single issue - there are other things which also must be considered like the economy, so it would not be wise to judge a candidate on one issue.  True it is a single issue, but it is the most important issue: if a politician thinks it is OK to kill an unborn baby for the sake of choice or because some citizens want it, then that person cannot be trusted with anything else: their moral compass is distorted and unnatural - not a good situation for any human being never mind a public representative.  As for keeping conscience and faith out of politics: I would rather have an unbeliever who sincerely follows his/her conscience and seeks to serve the common good than a weekly Mass-going Catholic who refuses to allow conscience through the door of their office - again, they cannot be trusted. 

The passing of the Civil Partnership Bill in the most undemocratic means possible is another issue.  Apart from undermining marriage in the State, the sheer nerve of public representatives to shirk the democratic process and skip over moral issues and arguments reveals not only an ungodly arrogance, but also a streak of tyranny which seems to be growing in modern political life.  Time for Christians to deal with our TDs and senators on that one.   Most of them will claim they could do nothing about it "I'm only a back bencher", well back bench revolts have changed party policy on numerous occasions.  As orthodox Christians we may be becoming a minority in Ireland, but we can at least give our candidates a grilling on the doorstep and remind them we are citizens and taxpayers too. 

As citizens we have the right and duty to vote.  As Christians we have the duty to use that vote wisely and in a manner that does not contradict our faith.  With life issues at stake, we have a duty to do all we can to keep out those who want to destroy human life and to support those who want to protect it.  We must also look to those who sincerely want to promote the common good and the well being of all our citizens, particularly the most vulnerable.  We must also seek to promote those who act in accordance with their conscience, sincerely seeking to do what is right rather than what is easy or popular.  We must try to avoid promoting those who only want to further their career at the expense of our country.  All of this means there is a serious responsibility on our shoulders to vote for the right person.  That means we cannot fall victim to the old party system.  Many in Ireland vote for a particular party regardless of who the candidate is.  That was fine when most if not all, candidates had sound moral beliefs - that is no longer true - there are anti-Christian and anti-life candidates in every party now (many of them even call themselves Christian), now we must be careful - party loyalty must now give way to higher principles. 

Now, rant over.  Time to pray and discern who gets the vote.  And lest anyone complain about my interference in politics I remind them as a pastor I have a duty to inform my flock of the issues which affect Christians in the political climate in which we live and to remind them of Catholic social principles and their responsibilities as good citizens.  

And as one party used to say: Vote early and vote often!

Thursday, January 20, 2011

New Image of St Genesius

Last night the Fraternity celebrated Foundation Day with Mass in St Mary's Church, Drogheda. We had a good crowd, many of whom were members, but non members also attended.  During the Mass the new painting of St Genesius was blessed. 

The painting, entitled St Genesius the Actor, is the work of Irish artist Richard Moore, whose main speciality is landscapes, though he has done some wonderful portraits.   The painting caught the attention of those who were at Mass and afterwards a crowd gathered in front of it to study it and then, wonderfully, they were drawn to pray.   Some said to me that now they see Genesius as a real person - while the Icon is beautiful, they said, it was stylised: here in this painting is a man you can speak to, relate to.  I was delighted to hear that - we wanted a realist image of the Saint to inspire devotion and it seems this painting did that last night.

A few thoughts on the work:   In the painting we see Genesius who looks directly at the viewer seeking to engage them.  He holds the cross to his heart and carries the palm of martyrdom.  He is dressed in the simple tunic of a Roman slave, with a red cloak which not only symbolises martyrdom, but also, in the iconographical tradition, baptism.  His hands seem rough, not refined and delicate, but the hands of man who knows hard work and hard times: actors in Genesius's day were slaves for the most part and did not have an easy life.  His face I find intriguing - it is the face of a man with a history, a man who suffered, but also a man who is curious and interested, a man who is calling out for an encounter with you.  Many remarked on the face, on his eyes, his, perhaps, enigmatic smile. 

Around him the sky is a turbulent blue, full of activity, from which a serene halo and a gold cross emerge (we are sanctified in the midst of the world, not divorced or removed from it).  The Saint stands on a cloud, representing heaven, yet he is not disconnected from the earth.  It seems as if heaven looks out onto the earth, and certainly in terms of a Saint's intercession this is true.  The Saints are not gone to into an oblivion, detached from us, they are still very much involved in our lives - if we let them.   Behind Genesius we see the city of Rome, distinguished by its ancient buildings some he would have known.  On the right is the Roman forum with the arch of Septimius Severus in the foreground.  In the background, above the forum the Colosseum can be seen.  On the left we have the Teatro di Marcello, one of Rome's ancient theatres, as it was in St Genesius's time.  Behind it the woods (pines) of Rome, with the facade of the Church of Santa Susanna where Genesius is now buried.   The symbols of his art are depicted on the right: the mask of tragedy, cut from the other, falls away, the mask of comedy, seeming as if liberated from the earth looks towards the heavens as if it is about to be brought up.

Artist Richard Moore with his painting, St Genesius the Actor

Thanks to Richard for his work and for bringing a wonderful vision of St Genesius to life.  We will print copies of the painting as prayer cards.

Another development.  As Caroline McCamley notes on her blog, the Council of the Fraternity have decided to proclaim Pope John Paul II secondary patron of the Fraternity following his beatification.  We will have to apply to Rome for permission to celebrate his feast since, as a Blessed, his cult will be confined to the diocese of Rome and those dioceses and religious congregations which have received permission to do so.  I do not know how our application will go: your prayers will be appreciated.  Pope John Paul II was one of the inspirations for our Fraternity.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Foundation Day

Corpus Christi Church, London, where the Fraternity was born
(statue of St Genesius on the pillar on the left).

Today the Fraternity of St Genesius celebrates its foundation day.  Today four years ago the association came into being and the work began.

For those who do not know the story of the foundation, it is interesting.  We say that the Fraternity was born in London and founded in Drogheda.  In a little church in London, Corpus Christi in Covent Garden, where there is a shrine to St Genesius, the inspiration came during periods of prayer, holy hours before the Blessed Sacrament.  Over a period of three years the idea was being discerned and in June 2006 it was consecrated to the Immaculate Heart of Our Lady in Fatima.   Finally on the 19th January 2007 we decided to give it a go, and various blessings, graces and signs have confirmed the inspiration.

We received the formal approval of the Church in August 2007 and we are now a Private Association of the Faithful according to the Canon Law of the Church, of diocesan right, the first step towards universal recognition.  We have almost a thousand members praying each day for those in the theatrical and cinematic arts, and growing.   

This evening we have a Mass in the Church where the Fraternity was founded, St Mary's in Drogheda, where we will mark the day, give thanks for graces received and pray for the grace to continue our work.  Mass is at 7.30, so if you can make it, please come.  For those of you around the world, unite yourselves in spirit with our prayer, and if you are not a member yet, why not consider joining?  No better day to do so than today. 

Tonight we will also bless a new image of St Genesius,  a painting by the Irish artist Richard Moore, it is a striking image - an interesting face, so I will look forward to seeing the reactions to it.  It is a beautiful piece that has captured a vibrant personality - just what we wanted.   I will  put it up tomorrow.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

"Bella" Tonight

Our film club is showing the movie Bella tonight at 7pm in Ely House, Ely Place, Dublin.  All welcome to come.  I have been asked to introduce the movie and give a pro-life talk.   The movie had been postponed from last month due to snow.   Please come, bring a friend...bring a bus load.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Permanent Deacons and Perpetual Continence

Ed Peters, renowned canon lawyer, is creating a bit of a storm which may have universal consequences.  According to a thesis he wrote five years ago, and being discussed again, he maintains that Canon Law requires that permanent deacons must refrain from sex with their wives after ordination.  He is discussing canon 277 of the 1983 code.  Here is the canon:
§ 1. Clerics are obliged to observe perfect and perpetual continence for the sake of the kingdom of heaven and therefore are bound to celibacy which is a special gift of God by which sacred ministers can adhere more easily to Christ with an undivided heart and are able to dedicate themselves more freely to the service of God and humanity. § 2. Clerics are to behave with due prudence towards persons whose company can endanger their obligation to observe continence or give rise to scandal among the faithful. § 3. The diocesan bishop is competent to establish more specific norms concerning this matter and to pass judgment in particular cases concerning the observance of this obligation.
At the moment it is understood that men ordained to the permanent diaconate, may continue normal relations with their wives, but if their wives should die before them, then they are bound to celibacy, ie they may not marry again.  Peters is saying that while permanent deacons are dispensed the rule of celibacy (they may remain married), they are not exempted from the rule of continence (refraining from sexual relations with their wives).  This rule may even apply to those former Anglican ministers who are ordained priests.

He has come to this position having studied the practice of the early Church and the rule of law in the Church since then.  In the early Church those ordained to service in the Church in the clerical state, if married, were required to live a life of continence.  Clerical continence and celibacy have been part of the Church's life from the beginning, contrary to what progressives teach.   It seems Peters has a point if we are to argue from history. 

It will be interesting to see how this one will pan out.  Ed Peters's thesis is here.  His son covers the story here on his blog.  An interesting reflection by Fr John Boyle on his blog.  Here is one deacon's reaction.  This is an area the Church is going to have to address. 

Catching Up

It has been a busy weekend.  Thank you for your prayers, the ceremony on Saturday went well, thank God.  Most of our community was there, and our Spiritual Assistant was also present to receive my promises.  My family made it up and they enjoyed themselves. 

However, I got more than I bargained for.  After my profession we had our community elections.  Christopher, our president was elected for a second term and I was elected a Counsellor.  It seems Our Lady is determined to put me to work!

Saturday also saw the ordination of the three former Anglican bishops as priests and the establishment of the Ordinariate of Our Lady of Walsingham.  We must pray for them.  Wonderful post by Fr Z on the crowds of protesters outside Westminster Cathedral demanding women's ordination - two old ladies!   I heard news reports on this and I was told that there was a significant crowd protesting - so much for the media: not vert accurate really.  Reminds me of the coverage of dissenters' conferences.  You are always given the impression that the majority of Catholics are in revolt against the Pope.  Many times I hear from self-styled progressives who say that the Church's refusal to ordain women, allow abortion etc etc, is driving people away from the Church and keeping the youth away.  Then I look at young people flocking back to the Church in groups like Youth 2000 and the dissenter's conferences look like bingo night at the local nursing home, oxygen tanks and all.  The trendy priests are now on walking frames (or near enough to them) and colouring their roots -  hardly the picture of a vibrant future.  God love them.

Reactions to the Pope's decision to beatify Pope John Paul are still coming in, some on the Catholic blogs are not too happy with the speed.  Pat Archbald thinks a Cause should be like fermenting a fine wine in a remote monastery.  Can't agree with him - I think we must also allow God to work.  If the cause has been efficient and a miracle properly investigated and found authentic, to delay for the sake of filling in time is problematic, smacks of raising saints when we want to rather when God wants them.  If God grants immediate miracles and devotion, then there is a message there.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Pray For Me

Today I make my final profession as a Secular Discalced Carmelite.  The ceremony takes place in the chapel of the Poor Clare nuns on the Cliftonville Road, Belfast, at 2.30pm.  Even though I am a diocesan priest, I am allowed under Canon Law to profess promises/vows in a Third Order, and so become a member of that Order.  Many diocesan priests are members of Third Orders and have benefited greatly from it, as I have myself.  Apparently we have some prestigious priestly members: St Vincent Pallotti and Pope St Pius X.  Ven. Pope John Paul II may have been a member, though no evidence has been found: he was one in spirit if not canonically.  I believe Cardinal Francis Arinze was professed a number of years ago; if so, I am in good company.

Today is the end of a long journey (and the beginning of a new one) and a joy for me: finally a son of St Teresa - forever!  Please pray for me that I will live up to her teaching, example and love. 

Friday, January 14, 2011


As expected, the Holy Father has approved the miracle attributed to the intercession of the Venerable Pope John Paul II, and has announced that his beatification will take place on the 1st May, Divine Mercy Sunday.  Alleluia!

The blogs are gushing with the news.  I was informed by a text message from a friend of mine while I was picking up my family in Dublin - they are coming up to Belfast for my profession tomorrow.  So this weekend is indeed a blessed one!

You probably have all this, but just in case: here is the text of the decree of Beatification, a beautiful piece of writing.  Rome Reports has some nice features.    Damian Thompson has raised a question: is it not too soon?  But our beloved Fr Z (peace be upon him!) has the answer written with that wonderful eloquence which is his.   If anyone says to you: "It's too soon", just remind them that the legal work was all done (and done properly), God did his bit and gave us a miracle, it would not be just to delay the beatification just to fill in a few years.  Santo Subito - God agreed with the devotees in St Peter's Square on the day of the Pope's funeral.  That, my friends, was an expression of the sensus fidelium, and the Church tested it and found it to be authentic. 

We look forward to the ceremony, I do not think I will be able to go - Divine Mercy Sunday is important and I would like to mark it in a special way in my parish, my first year and all: I think Pope John Paul would prefer that.  But given his importance for the Fraternity, we will plan something special: stay tuned.  Then, the prayer begins for his canonisation: Santo Subito!  Amen!

Biting the Apple

Perhaps you are following the row between Apple and those promoting the Manhattan Declaration which has been endorsed by tens of thousands.  A Manhattan Declaration Application was developed for the iphone, however it was removed by Apple after a small group of gay activists complained.  An appeal failed to persude Apple to restore it - they claim they do not want to support an application which offends.  Well, swallow your words, Apple Corp. because they have endorsed and promoted an application that makes a mockery of the Catholic faith and of our Sacrament of Confession.

Tim Drake writes about the Penance App which Apple is making available to interested parties.  Drake asks when the mockery will stop, I ask a more pertinent question, when will people in Apple see the double standard?   I wonder, would a boycott of Apple products do any good?  After all, if Catholics refused to buy or use Apple stuff, would that make them listen?  Probably not. 

Thursday, January 13, 2011

A Prayer...

Let us remember in prayer the three former Anglican bishops who were ordained to the diaconate today:  Rev. Andrew Burnham, Rev. John Broadhurst, Rev. Keith Newton.  They will be ordained Catholic priests in Westminster Cathedral on Saturday by Archbishop Vincent Nichols.   May the Lord bless our new deacons and help them with the work which lies ahead. 

An announcement from the Holy See is expected in the next couple of days formally establishing the Ordinariate for England and Wales. 

The Daily Telegraph reports that 600 laity will accompany the 50 Anglican priests being received at Easter.  Three more former bishops will also enter the Church with that group.

New Resting Place for Pope John Paul?

Interesting news from Rome Reports.  Is the Chapel of St Sebastian the future resting place for Pope John Paul II after beatification.  I note the report says an announcement is expected "in the coming hours".

In Discussion

The Apostolic Visitation to Ireland has started in earnest.   Two nights ago a public meeting was held in Drogheda with the Visitator to the Armagh Province, Cardinal Cormac Murphy O'Connor. I was not there, unable to go due to a previous engagement, but my friend Christopher was and he gives us a good summary of what happened on his blog Catholicus

To be honest, when I heard of a public meeting, I was a little afraid because I know what those meetings can turn into and who will turn up, and reading Christopher's account it seems my fears would have been partially realised.   I have no problem with meetings, there needs to be a forum where members of the Church can get together and talk with their pastors, but there is also the problem that these meetings can become dominated by the dissenting who feel the Church must change to suit their opinions and variant lifestyles, moral and immoral.  And it seems there may have been a few of them there at the Drogheda meeting.  I also notice the press was there to get a few salacious quotes for their, no doubt, already written, biased articles.  I see from Christopher's report the usual media suspects were sent, neither known for their fondness for Christianity.

The meeting seems to confirm one thing: that those who are looking for reform in Ireland see the only option as being a secularisation, permissivisation and protestantisation of the Catholic Church in Ireland.  The only way to prevent the recurrence of child sexual abuse is to allow priests to marry, ordain woman and shift the running of the Church over to the laity.  Interestingly these matters have nothing to do with the child abuse crisis, nor would they prevent abuse from occuring. 

First of all the vast majority of those abused, 95-97% , are abused by non-celibate men and women, most often family members.  Going on the statistics if one is comitted to celibacy there is a less chance one will abuse than if not committed to it. So celibacy seems to be a safeguard against the temptation to abuse.  It is is prejudice and pure ideology (and even hatred of priests) which will not allow certain people to see this basic statistical fact.

Secondly, with all due respect to all my women readers out there, being a woman is no safeguard against abuse: plenty of women abuse, and in institutions dealing with allegations of child abuse, women have been as guilty as men in covering up.  Just last year a German Luthern woman bishop, Maria Jepsen, was forced to resign because she failed to deal with abuse allegations.  She was the first woman bishop in Germany, ordained to great applause and made an icon for the campaign for women priests.  Well, she wasn't such a great icon after all - she was no better than some of the Catholic bishops who are presently being reviled for their failures. 

Finally, the laity running the Church.  Would that stop abuse?  No, I do not believe it would.  Like anyone else, when people get a hold of power they mean to hold onto it at any price and I have seen that all too clearly among certain laity who have been given positions of authority in the Church.  Not branding everyone with the same stick - there are many good, virtuous and competent lay people in Church positions doing great work and long may they remain.  But I have also seen the opposite, of people who manipulated their way onto committees, who do not the share the Catholic faith (as even Pope Benedict has pointed out in his recent book), and these are as corrupt and power-hungry as any ambitious cleric, and just as capable as covering up to save their skins and privileges.  Being a layperson is no guarantee of virtue or expertise, nor any special wisdom a cleric would not have, so we have to move from a naive belief that all goodness, wisdom and holiness resides in the lay state.

Even though those calling for reform reject it and ignore it, the last point made by Chrisopher is the solution to the problem: living our Christian calling properly.  Vice has always been with us, and will always be with us, it is only the naive who think that a system can change fallen human nature.  Original sin has been denied for years, our sinfulness has been swept under the carpet with peals of affirmation and nice, wooly talk, and now faced with concrete evidence of human sinfulness we do what atheistic philosophical materialism always does: change the structure, create a climate of suspicion, dehumanise human relationships and inaugurate Big Brother policy and that will solve the problem.  That is just naive.  Do we need safeguards?  Of course we do.  Do we need to know those who are in a position of trust?  Of course we do.  But if we are relying entirely on that we are not going to get to the core of the problem because sinners will always find a way around the moral law and will always have an excuse to justify it.  That is the weakness of the effects of Original sin.   Coming the heavy with an inhuman system will cause more problems that it will solve if we are placing all our trust in it, and as Christopher has pointed out, we are starting to see some of those problems already.

Real reform in the Church will not happen when Catholic Ireland is "cut free from the shackles" of Rome and embraces the culture of dissent, it will only happen when we take the Gospel seriously and struggle to live it; when we obey the commandments, when priests are faithful to their vows and the doctrines of the Church; when our religious are back in community, in their habits, praying together and serving the Church humbly.  When the laity realise that they are called to be saints and strive for personal holiness, safeguarding their families, playing an active role in their local parish and community, and participating in prayer and apostolic activities to help build up the Church.  When they support their bishop and local clergy and not get narked because the local priest would not allow them run riot through the liturgy as if it was their personal fiefdom.  When those members of our parish who are public representatives realise that they cannot divorce their professed faith from their public service and instead of becoming instruments to attack the Church and her moral teachings, instead become people who remind the secular state that the Church does have some interesting teachings that can actually help the state and the citizens build up community, serve the common good and respect the inherent dignity of every human being.

So the reform of the Church in Ireland is not as simple as putting a system in place and sticking to it, it is not about forcing bishops to resign or even appointing competent, orthodox ones, it is not about transparency: it is all of these and more - it is about Catholics in Ireland (clergy, religious and laity) waking up to the fact that they are Catholics, and that this is a way of life and not a cultural label used to get privileges when they want them.  Being Catholic means we must live the Gospel faithfully in union with Peter and strive for real holiness even if it means renouncing the comforts and conveniences we have enjoyed for years.  In Ireland we have alot of soul searching to do. 
The soon to be Blessed Pope John Paul II said it all in his life's work and writings: the ordinary means of Christian living is that of heroic virtue, anything less than that is not wholly Christian, through if we are striving we are on the way.  When we stop striving, then we go backwards, and as Pope Benedict pointed out in his letter to the Irish, that is what happened in Ireland.  Not only did we take the eye off the ball, we went backwards, and given the nature of human weakness, sin and temptation, when you go backwards there is always the danger that some will wallow in land of evil and degeneracy.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Getting To Know You...

I'm doing some work on martyrs at the moment.  One of the interesting things about such research is meeting new martyrs, especially contemporary ones, and old martyrs, once venerated throughout the Church who have been largely forgotten.  The Church has thousands of martyrs, so I suppose anyone interested in learning about them will have a project for life.  Our own St Genesius was one of the unknowns for contemporary men and women, though he was well known for many centuries.  It is good for us as followers of Christ to rediscover the holy lives and heroism of these martyrs.

One of these forgotten martyrs, but one who had been venerated for centuries in the Church, is a virgin slave woman, St Blandina of Lyons.   We first discovered this martyr in our Ecclesiastical History class in seminary.  She is one of the martyrs of Lyon and Vienne who died in 177, St Irenaeus, their bishop, among them.  One of my classmates was taken with her and began praying to her, and he still has a great devotion to her.  When I was studying in Rome I was surprised to discover that her relics exist and have been identified - I made sure I got one for him as an ordination gift.  I have no doubt she is looking after him and his priesthood.

Blandina was a slave in a Christian household, and she was herself a faithful Christian.  When persecution broke out in Lyons, she and other members of the household, including their mistress, were arrested.  Her mistress was martyred with many others. She was very beautiful, but also a strong woman, so when she was sent into the arena, she endured the tortures they threw at her.  She was exposed on a cross for animals to eat, but they did not come near her.  Later, she and a fifteen year old boy, St Ponticus, were subjected to various tortures, he died, but she survived.  She was then thrown to the bulls who tossed her about until she lost awareness of where she was.  The crowd were impressed with her endurance, and so it was decided that she be sacrificed to the gods instead, and so she died a victim of human sacrifice.  Her relics now lie in  a crystal reliquary in the parish church of Condat-Cantal near Clement-Ferrand in the heart of France, quite a distance from her native Lyons.

Images of her tomb:

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Papal Controversy

Still reading Weigel's book on Pope John Paul, last night I finished the second section, bringing the biographical to an end: next part his legacy.  Looking over some of the blogs and the response to the news that the pope could be beatified later this year I am amazed with the response.  Many out on the blogosphere are out and out anti-John Paul II.   Radical conservatives and radical liberals are fighting each other over his reign and when anyone in the middle ground raises their heads they are shot down from either side.  For a good example of this ridiculous ideological war go to the comments box of the National Catholic Register

Yes, I hear you say, it is to be expected: the saints polarise those who cannot figure them out.  John Paul II is one such figure.  To some in the Church, John Paul was a modernist, a heretic, who dismantled the Church triumphant and fully deserves the condemnation of damnation (or to the more charitable, a eternity in purgatory).  To others he was the facilitator of abusers, one who dragged the Church from a glorious liberal future back into the bad old days of dogmatic Catholicism, denying many in the Church their rights and preventing the Church from engaging with the modern world in realistic terms.

Life is too short to be slopping around in all this.  We have to look at the man's life and work objectively - outside the ideological colour scheme be it conservative, traditionalist, liberal, progressive, permissive etc.  We also have to look at what the Church does when it beatifies.  Reading the comments "heroic virtue" is being bandied about.  There are those who hold it in such a high standard it is unreachable (verges on Jansenism?) - and so the Church should not be able to beatify anyone because they see heroic virtue as being perfection from the start, but it isn't.  If we look at what heroic means it does not exclude a struggle, a growing: in fact it is part of it.  A hero is one who does the heroic in spite of their weaknesses, difficulties and faults.  Heroism emerges from weakness by means of a decision of the will to do the right and the good regardless of the cost and the effort.  The person is transformed bit by bit, growing stronger and holier.

John Paul II made mistakes, as did all those the Church has already acknowledged as having heroic virtue.  He had to grow into holiness.  He struggled to live a virtuous life, and in that struggle he was transformed. His final struggle reveals the progress he made: he was heroic in his suffering and it revealed his holiness, so much so that even many of his critics were silenced.  

As is pointed out time and time again with Causes, when the Church beatifies or canonises a person she is not beatifying or canonising every thing they did or said, nor every decision they made.  Nor does the Church say that this person had a divine knowledge of everything and so if they were authentically holy they would not have made bad decisions or would not have been taken in by bad and manipulating people.  Anyone who thinks that is plain naive.  In fact when we read their lives, we see many of the saints were conned by bad people: it was the heroic virtue of charity in the saint which helped them endure or overcome betrayal by those bad people, or even made them sitting ducks for bad people. 

John Paul II was fooled by Fr Macial, as was most of his order and numerous people in the Church.  Horrific, yes, but not unknown.  Hitler fooled the German people for a long time, and many intelligent people (does "Peace in our time" ring any bells?).  And perhaps history will note that some of our modern politicians and leaders are fooling us now though many people may think them to be the bee's knees.  Hindsight is a wonderful thing.  Should the Macial situation be examined? Yes, of course.   Should the Cause be suspended to do so?  If necessary.  Is it possible that John Paul II was innocent, unaware and responded in the best way he could?  Yes, it is.  Does that mean he can be beatified?  Yes, it does.  And Pope Benedict will decide on that matter in the coming months. 

One thing we can be sure of, the present Holy Father knows his history, he is cautious and wise, and he knows the pontificate of John Paul II from the inside, the weaknesses as much as the strengths - and he knows all about the Macial affair because he was doing all he could to get the abuser taken out.  So I think we can trust Benedict on this one.  And if Benedict sets a date to beatify John Paul, then we can take it that it is safe to proceed.  And for his critics, go and read John Paul II - his biography, his works and the last years of his suffering.  Look at the miracles God has been granting through his intercession, and then have a good hard look at where you are coming from. 

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Good News

It seems that the beatification of Pope John Paul II is close.  According to this report by the Rome Reports news agency (see below), the miracle submitted for consideration is advancing.  It seems to have been approved by the doctors and theologians on the Congregation of the Causes of Saints committee, and is now set to come before the Congregation proper, and then the Holy Father.  There is talk that he may be beatified in either May or October of this year.  We continue to pray for it. 

Some have said to me that the way he handled the Fr Macial case may have put a spanner in the works, and that might not be ruled out.  Pope Benedict may hold off signing the Decree of the Miracle until after an investigation has taken place, just as he did in the case of the Venerable Pius XII.  We will have to wait and see.

Pope John Paul II's beatification will be important for the Fraternity because it was in response to his call for a New Evangelisation and the renewal of culture, and his own example as an actor and writer, which inspired the foundation of our family of prayer.  On his beatification we may indeed look upon him as one of the saints of the Fraternity of St Genesius.  And, of course, on his beatification, we will celebrate, perhaps, God willing, even in Rome.  Start saving!

Friday, January 7, 2011

Who Do You Think You Are?

That question may well be aimed at me following my last post - indeed it already has, by a minister in our present government when I publicly taught the Church's teaching on same sex marriage.  This attitude from our elected representatives is not unheard of: just a couple of years ago a few prominent politicians sought to have a Catholic newspaper shut down because it took the opposite view to the political establishment on a European Treaty.  It seems press freedom, freedom of speech and democracy is only allowed operate within certain parameters which are established by the political elite in Ireland today.  And if you're Catholic, well then, the parameters are even tighter - they range from silence to "keep your mouth shut":  the Catholic position is to have no place in Irish political life today.

I have written on this before, but I see Cardinal George Pell has reminded our secular lords that the Church does indeed have the right to free speech even when it contradicts the established view, and that priests have the right to preach the Gospel.  Responding to the attacks against him by gay lobby groups denouncing his attempts to remind his flock of the Church's teaching on marriage, he tells them that priests have the right to preach against the legalisation of same-sex "marriage" from the pulpit.  Great to hear this: we could do with him here in Ireland to support our bishops in reminding our public representatives that the Church has the right to express her view and her teaching in public and should not fear attempts by secularists to silence or persecute her.  We are either a pluralist democracy or not.

Related to this, I just bought a copy of John Frain's The Cross and the Third Reich, a historical study of the Catholic Church's response to Nazism.  The popular myth is that the Church was silent in the face of Nazi atrocities and actually facilitated the rise of Hitler and his minions.  Of course that is a myth - the Church was Hitler's enemy and countless Catholics opposed him and protected the Jewish people, foremost among them Pope Pius XII.   Ironically those who accuse the Church of being silent during the Nazi period, are those who want to silence the Church now and prevent her speaking on various moral issues in modern society (many of these same accusers also support a number of practices implemented by the Nazis - abortion, euthanasia and elimination of the handicapped). 

Now, as then, the Church refuses to be silent, and now as then, she is attacked for what she says.  Now, as then, the Church recognises that she must speak and preach the Gospel and the dignity of the human person, of all human persons.  Future generations will look back at this period of history and see if the Church, with her centuries of experience, warned the current generation of the outcome of some of its decisions and actions - if she fails to do that she will be rightly condemned, and the greatest condemnation will come from the mouth of Christ.  But, as under the Nazis, she continues to speak up and bears the brunt of those who do not like what she has to say - that cost is nothing in comparison with the souls she seeks to save, nor the love she has for her Lord who urges her to proclaim the Gospel.  So as a priest I am encouraged to preach the Gospel as given by Christ, to encourage, exhort, inspire and warn, as is my duty, as is the duty of every priest in these difficult times.   We do indeed have the right and the duty to engage in the policies and decisions of our time and weigh them according to the Gospel and the dignity of the human person, and if they are found to be wanting, or even destructive, then we have the duty to acclaim them as such and to seek moral solutions.

So when asked: who do you think you are?  I suppose the answer is: a minister of the Gospel according to the bountiful gift of God.

Learning From History 2

Roland Freisler, Hitler's judge who subjected German law to the will of his paymaster, the Fuhrer

You may remember a couple of months ago I blogged on the current state of affairs in Ireland where many of our citizens were calling for an end to certain democratic structures so as to sort out our economic difficulties.   Well, the debate continues, but another suggestion has been made thanks to a revelation that twenty-two of our judges have made no voluntary contributions to the Revenue in lieu of the tax levy the rest of us citizens have to pay.  Now some of the most vocal are calling for a referendum which would allow politicians cut judges' pay.

Now you are probably scratching your head either in disbelief or lack of knowledge: a little bit of background will help.  As I mentioned in that post above, when Eamon de Valera was writing our Constitution he sought to divide power so as to prevent a tyrant like Hitler, Lenin or Stalin assuming total control.  He also established the judiciary as separate from the government so as not to be under a Taoiseach's control.  Part of this was refusing to allow governments to cut salaries of judges so they could not be threatened by financial penalties if they did not do what a government wanted.  A good idea.  Now the poor Irish want rid of that safeguard, and I'm sure there are lots of politicians who would support them wholeheartedly, after all, isn't it nice to have something to ensure the judiciary plays ball.  

Those who ignore the mistakes of history are doomed to repeat them.  That is a phrase modern Ireland would need to heed in these hard times.  Some would say, better a slave with a full stomach than a hungry free man - there will always be a tension between the comfortable life and standing for freedom, liberty and the good.  But I think we need to take heed of our recent history because the rise of fascism and communism took place at a time not very unlike our own. 

Saturday, January 1, 2011


Bishop Juan de Palafox

Just casting a quick look over the net on this New Year's Day.  Damian Thompson in his blog reports that some Anglican bishops who are coming over may be received at Mass in Westminster Cathedral at noon today - A Reluctant Sinner blog confirms with photographs: three former bishops, two wives of bishops, and the three nuns from Walsingham.  Andrew Burnham was among them, the other two being John Broadhurst and Keith Newton.  According to Caritas in Veritate blog the three former bishops will be ordained deacons on the 13th January and then priests two days later.  We accompany them with our prayers, and indeed all our brothers and sisters who will be entering full communion with the Church in the coming months to form the new Ordinariates.  We look forward to that and to the blessings the Ordinariates will bring.

UPDATE: The Anglo-Catholic blog has a lovely account of the former Anglicans' reception, as does Austen Ivereigh.    A larger group including three bishops, about fifty clergy and laity from about twenty Anglican parishes will be recieved at Easter.  Phew!  This is wonderful. 

John Allen, reflecting on the news stories of 2010, details five Vatican news stories which did not get the media attention they deserved: one of them is the continuing persecution of Christians in the modern world.  BBC news are reporting another Muslim atrocity against us this time a car bomb in Egypt which went off outside a Coptic Church as Mass was being celebrated.  Christians in Iraq are being decimated by Muslims as a religious war seems to be in full swing.   Of course the media ignore most of it - the martyrdom of Christians, and of Catholics in particular is not newsworthy, it seems.

I also see Planned Parenthood is top of the agenda for many of our Hollywood friends.  According to some of them the organisation is on the verge of penury and needs financial assistance (a billion dollar turnover is penury, God help us, the rest of us must be destitute!).   Sad to see anyone supporting that organisation which, on its own, is responsible for more human deaths, than most of the tyrannies and wars in history.  Communism and socialism holds the record with over 100 million murdered, Planned Parenthood must have beaten that record by now, or at least, must be very close to it.  Reading an article on LifeSiteNews, I realise how much prayer our actors and actresses need.  Social causes is one thing, and they all love causes, but cooperation in the greatest evil the world has know, that is another.  We need to pray.  And if you agree with me and are not a member of our Fraternity, please join us, pray with us!

The Holy Father has a busy year ahead, including World Youth Day in Madrid in August.  And two books coming out - volumes two and three of Jesus of Nazareth in March and November.  I think I'll start camping out outside Veritas in Dublin to get my copy (no, better still hop on a plane to CTS in London, Veritas takes ages to get his books).  Why not just pre-book on Amazon?  True, but that takes all the fun out of it.

Personally, my final profession as a Secular Discalced Carmelite takes place later this month - ceremony had to be cancelled last month due to snow.  Our Order also gets a new Blessed this year, Bishop Juan de Palafox (1600-1659).  He was not a professed Carmelite at all, but a great friend of the Order and very much influenced by St Teresa and St John. Born in Spain, he became a bishop in the New World and was renowned for his defence of the native peoples.  His work for them gained him many enemies.  He placed a group of Jesuits who were involved in cruel practices under interdict, and they tried to excommunicate him.  They managed to have him removed from his diocese and sent back to Spain.  His cause was opened soon after his death, and a miracle obtained to lead to his beatification, but the Jesuits hijacked the process and persuaded the pope to suspend it, which he did.  Pope John Paul II restarted it in 2003 and the Discalced Carmelite Postulator has been doing Trojan work.  The Venerable Juan will be beatified in May, unless some bolshie Jesuits get to Benedict first.   But we will be ready for them this time!